Monday, 24 March 2008

Snake and spider phobias unlocked

Snake and spider phobias unlocked
24 Mar 2008, 1156 hrs IST,PTI

NEW YORK: A large number of people count snakes and spiders among their fears. Now, a new study claims to have unlocked the psychology of the common phobias.

Researchers have found that contrary to assumptions that humans possess an evolutionary predisposition to fear the creepy creatures, it is the exposure to negative information about snakes and spiders, which causes phobias.
"Previous research shows we react differently to snakes and spiders than to other stimuli, such as flowers or mushrooms, or even other dangerous animals... or cars and guns, which are also much more dangerous.

"(In the past, this) has been explained by saying that people are predisposed by evolution to fear certain things, such as snakes and spiders, that would have been dangerous to our ancestors.

"(However), people tend to be exposed to a lot of negative information regarding snakes and spiders, and we argue this makes them more likely to be associated with phobia," said Dr Helena Purkis of University of Queensland.

In their study, the researchers compared the responses to stimuli of participants with no particular experience with snakes and spiders, to that of snake and spider experts.

"Previous research has argued that snakes and spiders attract preferential attention and that during this early processing a negative response is generated... as an implicit and indexed subconscious (action).

"We showed that although everyone preferentially attends to snakes or spiders in the environment as they are potentially dangerous, only inexperienced participants display a negative response," Dr Purkis said.

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